Kiu-wai Chu (PhD) is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Humanities and Chinese Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is also a National Humanities Center fellow in the USA (2022-23). He is currently Executive Councilor of ASLE-US and Living Lexicon co-editor of Environmental Humanities. His research focuses on ecocriticism, human-animal studies, and contemporary film and art in Chinese and global Asian contexts. His work has appeared in Transnational Ecocinema, Ecomedia: Key Issues, Chinese Environmental Humanities, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Asian Cinema, Photographies, Screen, and elsewhere. His co-edited volume The Routledge Handbook of Ecomedia Studies will be released in late 2023. E-mail: kiuwai.chu@ntu.edu.sg


The Posthuman Umwelt: Multispecies Justice in Daisuke Igarashi’s Manga World

Abstract: Focusing on Daisuke Igarashi’s (五十嵐大介) speculative fictional manga series Designs (2015-19), this presentation examines the capacity of graphic narratives in representing posthumanist perspectives that tackle multispecies justice. Depicting a world of “humanized animals” (HAs), a species of genetically modified chimera used as a kind of living weapons created by an agricultural biotechnological corporation named Sanmonto (a fictional depiction of Monsanto), Designs offers philosophical contemplations on the ethics of blurring the boundaries between human and animal. How could humanized animals be understood in the course of human/nonhuman evolutions? By highlighting the enhanced senses and transhuman powers of the human-looking animals, the story problematizes and rethinks our understanding of species hierarchies, as well as notions of mutations and “illnesses.” The stories also offer critiques of the global capitalist expansion and the growing multispecies injustice in the contemporary world. This paper examines Igarashi’s experimentations in representing Jakob von Uexküll’s concept of “Umwelten” of nonhuman species, and the inter-species subjectivities and the making kin among humans with the humanized frog girl, leopards, dolphins, and bats. Imagining multispecies worlds beyond anthropo-comprehension, the manga narratives depict multi-sensorial perceptions that connect us with the more-than-human worlds, extending one’s scope beyond geopolitical and bioregional boundaries, and towards the wider cosmos, while re-asserting the importance of fighting for multispecies justice in this biotechnology-driven Anthropocene.
Keywords: multispecies justice, manga, Daisuke Igarashi, Umwelt, making kin